Eddie Van Halen says music education should continue to be a priority in the age of budget cuts to schools.
"Music is such a necessity. It touches people's souls," the guitarist told CNN this week. "Music is the universal language to me. It transcends everything.
"My whole life has been music. I could not imagine anything else," he continued. "It's a must. It has to be taught."
Eddie and his brother Alex were trained as classical pianists from the age of six; Eddie later switched to drums and then guitar. The pair formed their first band, The Broken Combs, in fourth grade and would perform at lunchtime at Hamilton Elementary School in Pasadena, CA.
Van Halen appeared on CNN alongside Felice Mancini, CEO of the Mr. Holland's Opus Foundation, a program that provides musical instruments to students in low-income schools. The foundation doles out nearly 1,800 instruments annually to schools without music programs, which helps provide music education to over 10,000 students.
A few years back, Van Halen donated 75 guitars from his personal collection to the foundation to help with the cause.
"It was very difficult at first to find a charity that [takes guitars]," he explained. "They all just wanted money."
"It's the gift that keeps on giving," added Mancini. "The kids share the guitars, they learn, they graduate and then the instruments stay in the school. Our goal is to give kids every tool they can possibly have to succeed. Music is the common denominator. You put a kid in a music class and it builds community, communication and they find a place. It's a safe haven."
More information about Mr. Holland's Opus Foundation can be found at mhopus.org.
Eddie and Van Halen have been on an extended break following the end of a 2015 North American tour in support of “Tokyo Dome Live In Concert.”
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VIDEO: Eddie Van Halen shares support of Mr Holland’s Opus Foundation
Search Van Halen at hennemusic